Qualities of Effective Leadership
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
By the time you read this, all of the "leaders" we have installed in the U.S. Congress have been on the job for more than a month. They are the people we elected to lead our country into the future. Therefore, I thought it timely to write about effective leadership qualities. Hopefully, our representatives will either possess most of these qualities, or they will be eager to learn those they do not already practice.
What personal qualities does someone have to possess to be an effective leader of others? Few of us aspire to be "followers" in everything we do. Most of us would like to think of ourselves as "leaders" in something. Certainly, politicians like to think so. So here are just a few of the time-honored qualities of effective leaders.
Self-discipline. Any person who leads others needs to do so by example. If you expect those who follow you to be self-disciplined, you must be so yourself. Self-discipline is a willingness to do what needs to be done, even when you don't want to do it. Practice self-control to accomplish your objectives, step-by-step.
A keen sense of fairness. Without a highly developed sense of justice, no leader will ever be respected by those she or he wishes to lead. If you treat everyone, including yourself, with fairness and respect, you will be emulated and receive the same in return from those who follow you.
Steadfast courage to confront personal fears and take reasonable risks. When we confront common fears such as rejection, others' opinions, public speaking, etc., they usually diminish. After all there is nothing inherently dangerous in these. Courage to take reasonable risks is like stealing second base in a ball game. You can't expect to succeed at it, unless you risk taking your foot off first base. No intelligent follower will follow a wimp. Leaders who lack self-confidence rarely risk anything.
High moral values. A study conducted by Harvard University a few years ago, indicated that the characteristic needed most by top-level executives was "integrity." An effective leader must have unwavering integrity of character. Dishonesty, undependability, uncaring for those less fortunate, unwillingness to sacrifice self in the service of others...may characterize some people, but certainly not leaders.
Awareness and understanding of others points of view or personal perspectives. A leader must listen much more than talk. Only through observing and listening carefully, does anyone become aware of another's perceptual world. Leaders seek to understand others' attitudes and frames of reference, while not being overly concerned about getting his/her own viewpoint across.
Cooperation. A successful leader must understand and act upon the principle of cooperative effort. If a leader is not able to cooperate in joint efforts with others, the followers will not practice cooperation with each other. Leadership is powerful, and power calls for cooperation. No one is powerful enough to "do it alone."
Willing to assume full responsibility. The successful leader must be willing to assume the responsibility for the mistakes and shortcomings of her/his followers. Trying to shift responsibility always undercuts one's power and ability to take action to correct any mistakes.
Attentiveness to organization and details. Leaders must be organized themselves and have a mastery of detail. Efficient action requires detailed organization and plans.
Self-respect. Very few slovenly, careless persons become leaders. If you don't take good care of yourself, no one else will. It is not their job!
Finally, leaders must be in the habit of doing more than the minimum required. They do more than required of the follower. They must pursue their goal-attainment with focus and be willing to do "whatever it takes" within their moral ethical standards, to reach their envisioned goals. Minimum effort attains only minimum goals.
If our congressional leaders develop the above characteristics, our country will be effectively led to a great future. If you ever find a company in which the leadership has most of the above personal characteristics, you have found a leading company. If you develop these personal characteristics yourself, you will be, by definition, an effective leader.